Champagne 101: Leaside Locals Talk, History, Knowledge and a Few Recommendations to Ring in the New Year
Fact: Champagne is a sparkling wine produced only in the region of France bearing the same name.
Producers around the world have been trying to replicate this royal nectar since it was originally produced in around 1700. They have come close many times but Champagne has never been duplicated, even while applying the same standards as their French counterparts. There are three grape varieties permitted in the production of champagne: chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier, blended in as many different ways as the grower vigneron or Champagne house desires.
A bottle of Champagne made entirely from chardonnay grapes will carry the name ‘Blanc de Blancs’ on its label, meaning ‘white wine from white grapes’. Alternatively, ‘Blanc de Noir’, will indicate, you guessed it, ‘white wine from black grapes’, so no chardonnay allowed here. There are, of course, some spectacular rose Champagnes as well. A little insider secret: the roses are our favourite.
Traditional method or méthode champenoise is just one of the many rules of production that separate the men from the boys when it comes to Champagne. The lengthy process involves countless hours of manual labour and personal attention, including ‘remuage’ or ‘riddling’ – turning the bottles one at a time, a few times a day for many months allowing the dead yeast cells, created by a second fermentation in bottle, to fully flavour this worshiped beverage. It comes as no surprise that the French are very protective of their national pride and hard work.
In fact, some take the protection of their baby very seriously, indeed: Frederic Rouzaud, from the house of Roederer, producer of the iconic Cristal, when asked whether he thought the association of Cristal with ‘rap and bling’ would harm the brand, said “…but what can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it. I’m sure Dom Pérignon and Krug would be delighted to have their business.” In response, Jay-Z accused Rouzaud of racism and decided to boycott Cristal from his clubs, events and home, replacing it with Krug, Dom Pérignon and Ace of Spades.
Winston Churchill drank so much Pol Roger Champagne that there is a cuvée named in his honour. He is known to have inspired his troops during WWII with the words “Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we’re fighting for, it’s Champagne.”
What should be the true spirit of opening and enjoying a bottle of Champagne? Perhaps it is a celebration of a milestone moment; a consolation in sorrow or death; the planned savouring of a moment that you know will never come again. Whatever the inspiration, there can be no doubt that the essence of champagne is joy. It symbolizes capturing the happiness and sanctity of an occasion – a living communion of pleasure and experience.
Champagne is best enjoyed in a tall flute, preferably crystal, rather than a bowl shaped glass. The flute shape preserves the bubbles and offers a beautiful show as they unfurl like fireworks. And please, no strawberries or dessert with this precious liquid. Enjoy it as an apperitif and, yes, with your meal.
Why don’t you, this holiday season, indulge in savouring a bottle or two. Discover the fine mousse, light and silky texture and perfectly balanced palate full of toasty, biscuity notes. Let those tiny bubbles dance on your tongue and remind you that life is about the moments we share with those
we love. And remember, it’s etiquette to always look into the eyes of the other when you raise your glass to say ‘Santé’!
All the best of the Holiday Season to you!
Otta and Elizabeth
A few of our favourites:
Pol Roger 2004 Brut Cuvée Winston Churchill, Champagne, France – $246.75/bottle, 6/case
Champagne Pol Roger created their Prestige Cuvée in homage to Sir Winston Churchill mindful of the qualities that he sought in his champagne: robustness, a full-bodied character and relative maturity. The exact blend is a closely guarded family secret but it is undeniable that the composition would meet with the approval of the man to whom it is dedicated:“My tastes are simple, I am easily satisfied with the best”. Pinot Noir predominates, providing structure, breadth and robustness whilst Chardonnay contributes elegance, finesse and subtlety. Composed exclusively of grapes sourced
from Grand Cru Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards which were already under vine during Churchill’s lifetime, “Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill” is only made in the very best vintages and is always released later than the other vintage dated Champagnes from Pol Roger, marking Churchill’s appreciation for older wines.
98 Points Decanter / 94 Points Vinous / 97 Points Wine Enthusiast.
“Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
Pol Roger 2008 Blanc de Blancs – $115.75/bottle, 6/case
Pol Roger’s 2008 Brut Blanc de Blancs offers striking intensity in its finely sculpted, chiseled personality. Candied lemon, hazelnut, dried pear and herbs are some of the signatures. This is an especially vinous Blanc de Blancs that at times is suggestive of the richness one sees in the Montagne de Reims, but all of the fruit is from five Grand Cru villages in the Côte des Blancs – Oiry, Chouilly, Cramant, Avize and Oger.
Drink 2015 – 2023.~ 91 Points. Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Pol Roger 2008 Brut Rosé – $107.65/bottle, 6/case
The 2008 Rosé is absolutely gorgeous. Precise, sculpted and lifted throughout, the 2008 offers striking brightness in its red berry and rose petal flavors. The wine gains energy, intensity and focus with time in the glass, yet the overall impression is one of finesse. Readers should expect a taut, chiseled style. Then again, that is 2008. Drink 2017 – 2028.
~ 93 Points. Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Pol Roger Brut Reserve 1.5L – $136.60/bottle, 3/case Pol Roger Brut Reserve Champagne – $66.05/750ml bottle, any case size
Pol Roger Brut NV has a truly wide appeal and is perfect for lovers of exuberantly-styled Champagnes. Feminine and fruity in its youth, it takes on a fuller flavour with age. Made from 33% Chardonnay, 34% Pinot Noir and 33% Pinot Meunier with the added reserve wines especially selected to achieve the requisite elegance, balance and harmony. It’s perfect for the cellar as well as current drinking, which is an excellent reason to buy more than one case!
For more information about the champagnes mentioned or to purchase, please contact Elizabeth at email@example.com / 647-328-3023.
For more information about anything wine related, please contact Otta at firstname.lastname@example.org / 647-889-9463, or Elizabeth.